Letter from Matt- April

matt horvat letter

Dear Overlake Community,

Twenty years ago, I accompanied 16 New York City high school students on an eight-day Outward Bound trip in the Smoky Mountains outside of Asheville North Carolina (fortunately there were two adults on this trip).

What I remember so vividly about that trip was how students learned real leadership skills; figuring out how to work with one another in challenging circumstances. Whether it was scaling a rock face, using a topographical map to locate a trail, or traversing a river, students certainly pushed themselves (and the trip leaders) outside of their comfort zones. As we landed back in NYC, we all had grown in ways that only a trip like this could foster. We also appreciated the comforts of a warm bed!   

When I arrived at Overlake, I was so happy to be at a school that recognized the importance of this same type of learning and created time in the year - Project Week - for this to happen.

This year for Project Week, Karen Zaidberg, Nicole Balin, Rhonda Andres and I, accompanied 25 fifth, sixth, and seventh graders to Camp Orkila for a week. During that week we did a variety of activities and games that pushed us all. As I was standing on a bluff overlooking the ocean early one cold morning during the week, I looked around and saw students developing the same set of skills that 20 years earlier I saw those New York City students learn. These included working with one another in challenging circumstances, pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone, and becoming more attentive to the natural world around them.

That week also brought with it the wonderful enthusiasm that this age brings. Unlike those students from 20 years earlier, these campers dove into every activity with wonderful gusto and a can-do spirit and woke up each morning (no matter how chilly) looking forward to what the day would bring.

On Friday as we packed up ready for our trip back home, one of the students in my cabin mentioned to me that although he had never been in such a setting for this long, he was sad that the week was over and wished we had a few more days.

As I thought about this student on the bus ride back to school, I thought how wonderful that we could provide this type of an experience for students at a young age and in such a setting. But like 20 years ago, I think we were all happy to be back home Friday evening!